RESPECT! Very Highly Recommended 5 Stars

The Park and Kim families are a study in contrasts, living in modern day South Korea. The Kims live at the bottom of society, barely scraping by on stolen food, stolen wifi, and huddled in the smallest possible semi-basement, with only half their small living space above ground. The Kims have it all: A huge house designed by a famous architect. Fresh and plentiful food. Tutors for their kids. Glorious trees, verdant grass, and open spaces.

The Kims begin worming their way in to the Park’s lives. First their son is hired as a replacement tutor, and he recommends his mother as a replacement house keeper, his father as a driver, and sister as an art therapist. The Parks, for all their money, are both naive and dismissive of the qualities of their lower class support team, leading them to trust the Kims at their words and barely recognizing that their new servants could know each other, let alone be a part of the same scheming family.

For their part the Kims do not see their deception as hurting anyone. They see the Parks as sheep to be fleeced, and they have done the same to similar families and businesses before, with traumatic results to their victims but no shame to the Kims. This time might be different, with the literal and figurative ghost of one of their previous marks hiding in the shadows and destined to emerge at the worst possible time for both families.

Parasite (2019)
Released: 08 Nov 2019
Rated: R
Runtime: 132 min
Director: Bong Joon Ho
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Cast: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi
Writer(s): Bong Joon Ho (story), Bong Joon Ho (screenplay), Bong Joon Ho (story by), Jin Won Han (screenplay)
Plot: All unemployed, Ki-taek and his family take peculiar interest in the wealthy and glamorous Parks, as they ingratiate themselves into their lives and get entangled in an unexpected incident.
IMDB rating: 8.6
MetaScore: 96

Disc Information
Studio: Criterion
Distributed By: Criterion Collection
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: Dolby Atmos
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 131 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Premium Cardboard Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 10/27/2020
MSRP: $27.99

The Production: 5/5

Following in the tradition of many great character studies of upper and lower class people crashing and clashing against each other, such as “High and Low”, Us, Sorry To Bother You and so many more, Parasite brings a keen eye onto inequality and morality. It layers seeming coincidences on top of disregard for the damage our actions can have and marches the participants towards a bewildering tragedy. And it does so with classic noir imagery and universal emotions and grievances. Each of the 6 principal actors (ignoring the Park children and the housekeeper and her husband) give incredibly strong performances of flawed people: The distracted rich dad. The dopey housewife. The patriarch with a plan. The driven and strong woman. The talented but unmotivated student. The slacker artist.

I first saw Parasite on an HD stream the first go around, and it was illuminating to see it here again two more times: First in full Bluray quality with an amazing Atmos soundtrack (more on that below!) and a second viewing in glorious black and white. It’s through those fresh new looks that I truly got to see what resonated so much in this film that it won Best Picture. I didn’t “get it” on first view, but after digging through all the extras here I truly do now. The references to films and directors Mr. Bong Joon Ho reveres and references stand tall on these disks, as does his vision for how it should be shot and sound, which are both crystal clear.

If I have on quibble with the film it is in the dénouement. Despite being a message of hope, to me it rings hollow and reflects the philosophy of having no plan is the best plan, and having a serious plan is folly. Ultimately it continues the indictment of the Kim family’s faults writ large.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

This pack contains glorious color and B&W editions that are downrezzed from a new 4K digital master approved by Mr. Bong Joon Ho. It’s delicately focused, sharply rendered, and precisely framed. It features a ton of pans that can be troublesome for some playback devices but otherwise looked great on both my 2020 OLED and 2018 120″ projector. Otherwise this is about as good as a film can look on a Blu-ray of this era.

Unfortunately it’s also a stark reminder that Criterion is not geared for 4K releases… yet. But when they are ready I’m sure this will be one of their first releases. Count me in when that happens.

Audio: 5/5

In a word: stunning. This is the best Atmos track you will feast upon that doesn’t have a single blast, bullet or boom. Environmental cues stretch all around the room. Orchestral swells are matched with a theremin lead during a key segment. Silences are as important as the creaks and groans that break them. And the chaos of the party scene at the end is perfectly encapsulated. This is simply the best embodiment of what Atmos can do when guided by a skilled team that cares about audio as much as they do about visuals and story.

Special Features: 5/5

New 4K digital master, approved by director Bong Joon Ho and director of photography Hong Kyung Pyo, with Dolby Atmos soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New audio commentary featuring Bong and critic Tony Rayns
Black-and-white version of the film, with Dolby Atmos soundtrack and a new introduction by Bong
New conversation between Bong and critic Darcy Paquet
New interviews with Hong, production designer Lee Ha Jun, and editor Yang Jinmo
New program about the New Korean Cinema movement featuring Bong and filmmaker Park Chan-wook
Cannes Film Festival press conference from 2019 featuring Bong and members of the cast
Master class featuring Bong from the 2019 Lumière Festival in Lyon, France
Storyboard comparison
Trailers
PLUS: An essay by critic Inkoo Kang

All are as in depth and fascinating as you would expect from Criterion. Rayns’ interview with Bong Joon Ho is as insightful and fun as any I have ever seen. MUST SEE.

Overall: 5/5

Criterion Collection does Parasite right with this disk release. PQ, Atmos, extras, a whole second version of the movie in stunning black and white that evokes the greatest films in American Cinematographic history. Commentary. Cannes interviews and more. It was enough to make me re-evaluate my standing on the film itself and the talents of Mr. Bong Joon Ho overall. My highest recommendation.

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Sam Posten

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Robert Harris

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I’m probably in the minority. I saw this film in 4k and Atmos, with the filmmaker and lead actor.

And while I found portions amusing - I was thinking Sturges - I ended up disliking the film immensely.
 

Jeffrey D

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It’s not an easy film to “like”- Parasite is the correct name for what takes place- despicable opportunists with no moral compass. I thought it was a clever film.
 

Robert Harris

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It’s not an easy film to “like”- Parasite is the correct name for what takes place- despicable opportunists with no moral compass. I thought it was a clever film.
My dislike was not the darkness the set over the tale, but rather the connective device between the first two acts, which seemed an inopportune use of the Marx Bros. Stateroom episode, after an unnecessary event.
 

Sam Posten

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I don’t believe we are supposed to like any of the characters but we are supposed to at least sympathize or empathize with them. We all have our faults and sometimes it takes outside forces to shake their effects to the surface.
 

sidburyjr

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Are the extras in English or Korean? The description at Criterion doesn’t say. In fact it doesn’t even mention subtitles but I assume they are available. I do wish Criterion would start adding subbed sound tracks to its foreign language films
 

Carlo Medina

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I waited patiently for the 4K disc and bought it, relishing in the fact that my patience helped me avoid a BD purchase which came several weeks earlier.

But reading those extras, looks like Criterion may succeed in getting me to double dip on this title on blu ray after all...
 

Sam Posten

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Are the extras in English or Korean? The description at Criterion doesn’t say. In fact it doesn’t even mention subtitles but I assume they are available. I do wish Criterion would start adding subbed sound tracks to its foreign language films

Mixed but mostly Korean! One is in French!
 

B-ROLL

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I waited patiently for the 4K disc and bought it, relishing in the fact that my patience helped me avoid a BD purchase which came several weeks earlier.

But reading those extras, looks like Criterion may succeed in getting me to double dip on this title on blu ray after all...
I picked up the 4K during a Best Buy Black Friday sale for $10.00 and the Criterion from Barnes & Noble. I would argue not to waste your time with the Universal blu-ray - that's included with the 4K - and get the Criterion for the supplements (and alternate monochrome version if you feel it necessary) and use the 4K for future viewings.

I think an appreciation of Korean cinema may be important to the enjoyment of Parasite - but Bong Jun-Ho considers Hitchcock among inspirations.